John Bell is probably best known to you for his published work on Canadian comics. He was kind enough to take the time to answer a number of questions I sent him with a view to publishing his responses…
Harry Joseph Brunt was born on Nov. 22, 1918 in Chicago but his family seems to have settled in the Toronto-Hamilton area a few years after he was born. Brunt started to work for Bell features as one of its artists while he was in his mid-twenties around the Christmas season of 1943. The nature of his contribution to these comics consisted of two or three page featurettes that were cartoony and goofy and invariably had an alliterative name.
This week I want to talk about a significant comic from the late WECA period, Slam-Bang Comics No. 7, with a cover date of May, 1946. (Jim Finlay informs me that his indicia for this issue has the date July, 1946 pencilled in, maybe with the May date whited out? Anybody else have a copy they could check?) It took the cover banner from Fawcett’s short live run of a same titled series of 7 issues from 1940, but why it began in Canada with an initial number 7 is still a mystery. Perhaps it was some sort of nod or licensing response to the Fawcett run, but who knows?
In late 1944, Steele seemed to have come up with the idea of doing cut-out masks of a few of the lead Bell characters on the inside covers of some of the Bell Features books. We modern collectors look back somewhat aghast on this because, just like Bell’s placement of cut-out coupons in similar locations, it must have led to wanton disfigurement of many of these books, but such were the ways of the world back then towards something that was seen as ultimately disposable and easily remaindered. Steele signed these "fathead" portraits with his shortened monogram "TAS."
Today is the launch day of our modest attempt to set up an online database of Canadian comic books from the WECA period (1941-46), better known to collectors as The Canadian Whites, at canadasowncomics.com. We were approached early on in our project to avoid the difficulty of creating an online index of these comics from scratch and simply upload our information to the Grand Comics Database. However, we felt it of utmost importance that the first real indexing of these comics be based in Canada. I’m sure that the information we put up there (and remember that this is the first real setting down of comprehensive data about a unique, rare, and arcane set of comic books) will often have holes and need amendment and tweaking, but this first effort is important. I’m sure that a lot of our information will be mined by sites such as the Grand Comics Database, I just hope that whoever ends up using our findings as published material will link back to our site or, at least, credit their find appropriately.
I’m up at the archives again, flipping original Bell Features art pages and have just had time to put together a patchwork column this week. First of all, I’d like to share with you some dates and geography. My…
The WECA period had its share of capes, masks, and tights, but the most common heroic habit for the super-styled Canadian crime-fighter of the period was far more reserved fashion statement. This was the simple combination of jodhpurs and riding boots with a variety of top halfs.
By the time Name-It Comics came out, Maple Leaf’s first title, and Canada’s first comic book, Better Comics had already had eight issues out and its second title, Lucky Comics (at that time known as “Union Jack – Lucky Comics”) had had half that. The other title that came out concurrently with Name-It Comics was Bing Bang Comics with its lead and cover feature being the adolescent, Denis the Menace type of trouble maker, Pinky.
On the front cover of Canada’s first comic book, Better Comics No. 1 (March, 1941), Vancouver’s Maple Leaf Publications chooses a stylized maple leaf containing the words “Canada’s Own” to be its logo. These words broadcast the mission mandate…
I’ve already discussed the work of Sid Barron, one of Educational Projects main artists, elsewhere and in this post I’d like to look at another, Joseph Hillenbrand, even though there is little information available about him apart from the comic book work he left behind.
This time there were 66 books on offer and most were of lower or very low grade. Would the auction for these books support the strong results of the last ComicLink Whites auction in February, or would the results fall flat because of the lower grades and not many really key books?
The last ComicLink featuring a collection of Canadian “Whites” was this past February and, in the end, commanded some eye-opening prices for these scarce books. There we had about three dozen books, most in mid-grade to better. In my opinion even 6.5 and up should be considered “high grade” for these scarce Canadian wartime comics, given that so few are found in this condition.
This month’s auction, even though it has almost double the amount of books (61), has them in mostly in lower grades. Almost a dozen of them are incompletes (0.5) because of a centerfold missing or a rectangular coupon cut out of the front cover. I’ve done a summary of the books on offer in a chart form anchored on condition, going from the lowest to the highest.
I recently came across a copy of a newsprint comic put out in April of 1941 called Canadian Rocket. I’m sure that some of you have already seen it. This has no glossy or cardboard type cover and is simply a newsprint publication that is a little larger than a regular comic book. Perhaps this was also the format of Robin Hood Comics No. 1 by Anglo American Publications which appeared on the stands a month earlier along with Better Comics No. 1 from Maple Leaf Publications. The indicia attribute it to Victory Publishing Co. in Toronto.
As a lot of you may know, I am working on putting together a coffee table-sized book that would feature the main artists of these WECA comics, that is, the Canadian Whites. I've got about 10 sections finished and I have submitted a package with the first three sections to Dundurn Publishing in Toronto. I really don’t hold much hope for seeing my cache of fairly arcane information being picked up by a publisher over the next few months, but I will try a couple more (such as Drawn and Quarterly and Fantagraphics). Most likely, my project will only be able to see fruition as a self-published e-book or a book for which a good deal of publishing funding could be raised through an online funding scheme such as Kickstarter.
It’s that time of year again when Canadian golden age creators are considered for inclusion in the Joe Shuster Awards Canadian Comic Book Hall of Fame. Certainly an august constellation of creators but who are the two additions that should be inducted this year?
Overall the documentary was a slick and informative effort. It reminded me a little of the recent PBS Superheroes three-parter because it made heavy use of talking heads in front of green screen projections. This allowed the film itself to take on a sense of comic book levity and healthy self-deprecation. A comic book doc has to be heavy on graphics from the books themselves and this one didn’t let us down in that respect.
The latest ComicLink online auction finished last night and on offer were three dozen slabbed Canadian comics with all but two of them WECA books. The biggest irony of the final tally for me was that the highest prices were commanded by essentially reprint material.
In doing my ongoing research into Canadian war time comics, I recently came across this Toronto Star article about a Whites artist named Michael (Bud) Riled who seems to have created a female jungle heroine called "Terena of the Jungle." It even has a quote from Peter Berkemoe, owner of The Beguiling about the period of The Whites.
John Stables (most often signing his work Jon St. Ables) has always been amongst the most appreciated of the WECA artists and his name is consistently placed at the head of lists of those artists best representative of the excellent, professional quality of Canadian war-time comic art whenever the artistic output of the Canadian Whites is brought into question. He was inducted into the Shuster Hall of Fame in 2006 and the write up with the induction by Robert Pincombe and Peter Hansen supplies you with the necessary details of his life and career.
Of all the WECA books, those produced by Maple Leaf Publishing out on the west coast of Canada are in the most demand and are the hardest to find. In this post I want to initiate the question of the number and dates of all the Maple Leaf issues… especially that murky last year—1946.